Costa Rica Advances Cannabis Reform

Stephen Andrews
05 Mar 2022

It's good news from Central America! Costa Rica moved on to legalize the medical use of cannabis and set out the first framework for the entire industry. Recreational cannabis remains prohibited for now, however, the country's future leaders have shown promise this too will become a reality.

Costa Rica's law also legalizes the cultivation and industrial production of hemp. The country introduced the change on legislation on Wednesday (March 2), after having the outgoing President Carlos Alvarado sign a law passed a day earlier by Congress. 

President Alvarado has vetoed an earlier version of the bill, requesting lawmakers to improve it. The new law advances the right to health for those who need cannabis for medical reasons. It's also anticipated the law will bring much-needed development in rural areas where hemp will be cultivated. The sector should create thousands of new jobs for Costa Ricans. 

Alvarado's days in office are due to come to an end. Either José María Figueres or Rodrigo Chaves, the two presidential candidates in a runoff election scheduled in April, will succeed his administration. Both candidates have spoken in favor of legalizing the adult use of marijuana. Therefore, further progress on the reform appears imminent. 

Costa Rica's law allowing the medical use of cannabis is similar to other laws passed in other countries in the region, such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. However, Uruguay has also legalized recreational use; it was the first country in the world to do so. Mexico is also close to becoming the second country in the region with full-scope legislation that serves both medical and recreational users. Unless Costa Rica politicians act faster and outrun Mexico in their ambition. 

Costa Rica's authorities have traditionally had a relaxed stance on cannabis use and possession. An individual would not be criminally charged if caught carrying a personal amount of weed. 

A proper law will tidy up things for everyone, however. It will cut down on illegal street sales, and it will help ramp up research capacities. For a country that has also heavily relied on tourism, a high-quality weed grown in its great outdoors and sold in legal shops across its towns and cities, is an incentive for foreigners as much as domestic users. There are all the right reasons Costa Rica can become the next hot destination for cannabis tourists and aficionados. 

Stephen Andrews